Marketers must get back to basics when determining what tactic works best to win over online consumers.
Out of the sundry tactics that marketing professionals can use, which ones are the most appropriate? Well, it depends. It depends on what stage in the product lifecycle the product is; it depends on the marketing objective or need. Too often, advertisers select tactics based on how far and wide they want to cast their message instead of what "missing link" is causing their product or service to not be purchased.
For example, for big established brands like Apple or Gap, the need is not more awareness, because they already have nearly 100 percent unaided brand recall. Instead, something else stands between the customer and a purchase - for example, when I am considering an Apple Macbook, I am afraid that the learning curve to get used to the new operating system will take me too long to get back up to working speed. Such a barrier to the purchase is both highly individual and also very hard to address with one-way mass media which pushes 30 seconds of information out at people. Most products, other than the ones that are newly launched, do not suffer from lack of awareness - so many mass awareness tactics such as TV, print, radio, newspapers, etc. are not as useful.
When modern users enter the consideration stage of the funnel, they go online to do research. And the first place they go is Google - to do searches for more information and get feedback from peers about the product or service they are considering. Most of these users have tuned out to ads until such time they need the information. However, when they do need the information, most advertisers have not sufficiently optimized their online presence so that their information shows up to the user who is searching. So while advertisers are doing above-the-line awareness ads, they may in fact be unknowingly driving traffic and sales to competitors. For example, a user is reminded they need to buy pet food, but when they research online or reach out their hand to select an item in store, they end up buying a competitor's brand.
If users go online to purchase, the brand or retailer that makes their purchase process the shortest and easiest will typically get the sale. For example, even on a smartphone it may be difficult or impossible to complete a purchase from a retail site; but with text messaging from a "dumb phone" someone can complete a purchase from Amazon. In fact, price is no longer even a good differentiator because users are savvy enough to check price comparison sites to compare prices across dozens of sites before selecting where to buy it. So why would someone buy from a no name merchant with unknown return policies or poor customer service when they can buy from Zappos or Amazon?
Finally, when it comes to loyalty, modern users are able to share their love, or hate, of a product or service online. This impacts not only their friends, but may even have a long-lasting impact on the product or service if their rants or raves are public and archived for future users to see when they do research online. Further, as more and more users get into the habit of sharing feedback and reviews online, their circle of influence will continue to grow and further outweigh the "noise" that comes from advertisers' ads making claims. Advertisers need to figure out how to earn the credibility to be a part of this consumer dialog - mainly by contributing value to the dialog or useful advice to the target customers.
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Dr. Augustine Fou is the senior digital strategy advisor to CMOs, marketing executives, and global brands. Dr. Fou has over 15 years of Internet strategy consulting experience and is an expert in social media marketing strategy, data/analytics, and consumer insights, with specific knowledge in the consumer packaged goods, financial services/credit cards, food/beverage, retail/apparel, and pharmaceutical/healthcare sectors.
He is a frequent panelist, moderator, and keynote speaker at industry conferences. Dr. Fou is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies and at Rutgers University at the Center for Management Development, where he teaches executive courses on digital strategy and integrated marketing.
Dr. Fou completed his PhD at MIT at the age of 23. He started his career with McKinsey & Company and previously served as SVP, digital strategy lead, McCann/MRM Worldwide and group chief digital officer of Omnicom's Healthcare Consultancy Group (HCG). He writes a blog "Rants, Raves about Digital Marketing" and can be found on Twitter at @acfou.
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